Bergmann at Selian Hospital in Tanzania

The following was submitted by Kelly Bergmann, a second-year pediatric resident on service in Arusha, Tanzania, under the preceptorship of Steve Swanson, MD

Kelly Bergmann cares for a patient on the wards at Selian Hospital in Arusha, Tanzania

On the eve of returning to Minnesota after five weeks in Tanzania, my impressions of my time here are mixed. On one hand I'm excited to go back home and see family and friends. But on the other hand, I will miss those friends that I've made, the people, the culture.

Most of all, it's the children in the hospital that I will miss, many of whom were staring death in the face and courageously took on each day with a smile. Their smiles brought joy to my heart and hope for their future, despite the limitation of medical resources and care that we could provide.

Selian Hospital, in my brief experience, does what it can with limited resources. It is difficult to get reliable lab tests and ultrasound reports. The x-ray machine, bilirubin lights and neonatal warmer work only intermittently. Vitals are taken once a day on the ward, usually by our team as we make rounds. Family members provide food for their malnourished children, but if they don't have money for food, the children aren't able to eat.

Just down the road from Selian is one of the top five hospitals in the country, Arusha Lutheran Medical Center. ALMC is actually a partner with Selian, and much of their profit is subsidized to help provide reduced-cost services at Selian.

ALMC is what I hope Selian will become one day: a beautiful new facility with resources that would rival some hospitals in the U.S. IV fluids can be appropriately administered, labs are reliable, x-rays are good quality, neonates can consistently be kept warm. Just a mile away from each other, these two hospitals are worlds apart.

I will miss Tanzania and the serenity I found amidst the sometimes chaotic day-to-day life. Most of all I will miss the children and their smiling faces.


Joshua, who loved having his picture taken


I will miss Faratha, a 7 year-old girl with AIDS whose smile was so beautiful. I will miss Joshua, a 4 year-old with kwashiorkor who finally smiled at me after about a week. Most of all, I will miss Helena, a 4 year-old with kwashiorkor. I took care of her for almost two weeks and never saw her smile, but I imagine it stretching from ear-to-ear, lighting up a room--the glimmer in her eye as she finally has the strength to smile. No, I never did see her smile.

But that is what keeps me coming back, knowing that someday soon, she will feel happiness again.

Another patient at Selian looks out the window beside her hospital bed